You have to be either foolhardy or very brave to attempt a new version of a novel that served as the basis for a classic Alfred Hitchcock film. But whatever prompted the BBC to remake "The Lady Vanishes," the result is entertaining without either dethroning Hitchcock’s 1938 film or embarrassing itself. The new version can be seen Sunday on PBS’ "Masterpiece."
Both films were adapted from a 1936 novel by Ethel Lina White called "The Wheel Spins," about a rich, vapid and spoiled young woman named Iris Carr (Tuppence Middleton, "Inspector Lewis") whom we first meet when she is vacationing in the Balkans with several equally annoying friends.
Bored by her friends and the stuffy, disapproving guests at the hotel where she’s been staying, Iris decides to take the train back to London but faints from sunstroke just before the train is to depart. She recovers just in time to board the train, where she inexplicably finds many of the other guests from the hotel she’s just left.
Iris is befriended by a chatty woman in tweed named Miss Froy (Selina Cadell, "Doc Martin"), who suddenly disappears. Iris believes the woman has been kidnapped, or worse, but no one else on the train believes her story.
The other passengers include the married Sir Peveril (Julian Rhind-Tutt); his mistress (Keeley Hawes); the elderly Rev. Barnes (Pip Torrens) and his weepy wife (Sandy McDade); a stern doctor (Jesper Christensen); a creepy baroness (Benedikte Hansen); a pair of elderly sisters (Gemma Jones, and Stephanie Cole); and, in particular, a handsome young engineer named Max Hare (Tom Hughes), who very much wants to believe Iris because he’s clearly smitten by her.
None of it makes much sense, of course, but even if you’ve forgotten the Hitchcock film, it’s easy to see from the new version what appealed to him about the novel: All the proper secondary characters who are at first so judgmental about the flighty young English girl are later revealed to be in no position to make judgment on others.
The adaptation by Fiona Seres is adequate but feels absurdly rushed at the end, which only undermines the film’s already shaky credibility. Diarmuid Lawrence’s direction is serviceable overall, and he does elicit winning performances from the entire cast, particularly Middleton, Hughes, Jones, Cole and McDade.
‘Duck Dynasty’ return sets record
NEW YORK (AP) -- A&E says nearly 12 million birds of a feather caught Wednesday’s season premiere of its hit unscripted series "Duck Dynasty."
The network said the episode took its place as the No. 1 non-fiction series telecast in cable history in total viewers as well as all key demographic groups.
The fourth-season premiere grew by more than one-third in total viewers over last season’s debut.
Set in Louisiana bayou country, "Duck Dynasty" follows a brood of brothers who manufacture duck calls and love to go bird hunting.
New episodes air every Wednesday at 10 p.m.
Lifetime renews ‘Devious Maids’
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Lifetime channel says it’s renewing "Devious Maids" for a second season.
Lifetime says the series about the lives of domestic workers and their wealthy bosses has proved the network’s fastest-growing drama since its June debut.
Inspired by a Spanish-language telenovela, "Devious Maids" is from "Desperate Housewives" creator Marc Cherry and includes Eva Longoria, who starred in the ABC drama, as an executive producer.
Lifetime ordered 13 episodes for the second season.